The Brumbies must play in an expanded Super Rugby competition in 2022

Tim Gavel 8 June 2021 9
The Brumbies versus Hurricanes

Brumbies crowds have been disappointing. Photo: Supplied.

Within the first 10 minutes of the Brumbies-Hurricanes game on Saturday night, it was obvious what had been missing from Super Rugby matches at Canberra Stadium.

And while the game only featured three tries, the scoreline of 12-10 does little to reflect the high entertainment level of the game for which we can thank the Kiwis.

New Zealand teams play rugby as it should be played: at pace and with a genuine desire to play the running game.

Saturday night’s game was a welcome relief from some of the games served up in Super Rugby AU, which involved the five Australian teams playing each other twice.

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If you take into account a pre-season trial and a qualifying final, the Brumbies played the Western Force four times during the 2021 season.

With no disrespect to the Force, the quality of the game against the Hurricanes had more highlights than the four games against the Force combined.

Brumbies in training

Brumbies in training. Photo: Brumbies Media/Rian Murphy.

It is why the Brumbies and Australian teams need to be in a combined competition in 2021, not the ‘tack on at the end of the season’ series we have at the moment.

Another aspect is the affinity Canberra rugby supporters have for New Zealand teams. The standard of play increases markedly when Kiwi teams are involved, as evidenced by Saturday night’s game.

Five of the top nine Brumbies Super Rugby games, in terms of crowds at Canberra Stadium, involve New Zealand opponents.

The most favoured of the Kiwi sides is the Crusaders. This is on the back of a rivalry stretching to the early 2000s. Not one single game this year so far involving the Brumbies exceeded a crowd of 10,000.

The game against the Hurricanes at Canberra Stadium deserved 20,000 but failed to attract an audience, due partly to the perception that the competition was already over after the Brumbies lost the first three of the five-game series in New Zealand before returning home.

Another issue was the Brumbies hadn’t played a game in Canberra for five weeks, which made it difficult for continuity.

It was a problem the Brumbies encountered when returning home to play in Canberra after three weeks away in South Africa. The season almost required a kick-start to get it moving again in the minds of supporters, many of whom hadn’t seen the team play either in person or on television for over a month.

The perception that New Zealand teams were far superior had been driven hard in the media, and in some cases, this was justified given the points leaked by the Waratahs.

But it was overblown.

The Brumbies had a chance to draw the game against the Crusaders in Christchurch, just as Jordie Barrett had the opportunity to win the match against the Brumbies twice in the final three minutes.

In 2017-2018, Australian teams lost 40 games in a row against New Zealand sides in Super Rugby.

This season so far, Australian teams have won two from 20 against the Kiwis.

I am sure if the Brumbies were playing New Zealand sides regularly, week in week out, the statistics would be far more favourable.

This is why Australian teams need to be in a combined Super Rugby competition with New Zealand for the entire year, not the current Trans Tasman Series, which was the only solution to ensure games were played during COVID-19.

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Another looming factor, possibly as soon as next season, is the introduction of Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika, with the New Zealand Rugby Union indicating a desire for the two teams to come into Super Rugby.

Playing New Zealand and possibly Pasifika and Fiji regularly as part of a Super 12 competition is essential to improve rugby as an entertainment product more than anything else.

The five Australian teams playing each other twice worked to a point for the past two years because of COVID, but I am not sure it can be sustained for another season.

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9 Responses to The Brumbies must play in an expanded Super Rugby competition in 2022
Joanne Clark Joanne Clark 8:30 am 10 Jun 21

I loved watching the teams from NZ and Japan play our teams. Need to bring it back.

Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins 8:13 pm 09 Jun 21

I believe the plan is a comp with 12 teams the 5 NZ, the 5 AU and 2 pacific islander teams.

John Moulis John Moulis 3:13 pm 09 Jun 21

I beg to disagree. One of the reasons why rugby in this country has declined so much was because of the lopsided nature of the super competition. Almost always we have seen a final series with no Australian teams in it at all. And it was always the Crusaders holding aloft the premiership shield on grand final day. Who wants to see that over and over?

Having an all Australian competition is already seeing a resurgence of the code in this country. At least we know that there will be at least one team to Barrick for in the finals.

Having a competition with teams from other countries may have made sense in those heady days of super rugby in 1995, but it has been disastrous for the code in the long run. Rather than bringing in the New Zealand teams again, we should expand the competition to bring back the Perth team and teams from Adelaide, NQ and possibly a Darwin team.

The Natural Look & Co The Natural Look & Co 9:09 am 09 Jun 21

There needs to be a competition where everyone is playing everyone consistently , the only way teams will be on a level playing field, salary caps so teams aren’t stacked, and just have a round robin format, top 8 play off, semi finals and a final. Currently NZ rugby is the strongest because of its grassroots format and player development schemes, I could guarantee that a number of club sides could consistently beat Australian sides in super rugby. Until it’s Australian grassroots rugby is brought upto par with its national player development level they will suffer… to much money is pumped into the top tier of Australian rugby to have an adverse effect for its lower levels..

Matt Brokenbrough Matt Brokenbrough 8:24 am 09 Jun 21

To make the competition more competitive, I think the national governing bodies need to allow players to play for teams overseas but within Super Rugby. Eg. Kiwis and Aus can play for sides in each other's country but still be selected for All Blacks and Wallabies. It will help Aussie players grow whilst even out the talent in the league.

Kiwi players don't count as imports in other leagues like NBL or NRL so why are teams limited in SR.

Perhaps a generous cap to ensure Aussie talent isn't overlooked even for Australian based teams but I think the lop sided results are speaking for themselves.

    Paul Rutherford Paul Rutherford 8:51 am 09 Jun 21

    Matt Brokenbrough I can see half of Aussie teams being kiwi. Doesn’t bother me as long as there is a rugby comp that is entertaining to watch

Graham Wilson Graham Wilson 7:41 am 09 Jun 21

I thought that Super Rugby was returning to an old school Super 12 format in 2022 with the inclusion of Fijian Drua & a Pasifika team (combined Tonga & Samoa) playing out of Sth Auckland ?

Richard Willcoxson Richard Willcoxson 7:23 am 09 Jun 21

I agree, you won’t get better playing lower quality teams week in week out. I think the trans Tasman has proved that this year.

    Wayne Russell Wayne Russell 2:30 pm 09 Jun 21

    Richard Willcoxson the last 15 years of Wallabies results say we didn’t get better playing against them either. But fans tuned out when losing to them constantly.

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